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After the Bell Rings

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Although Baltimore schools have just started, negotiations have stalled over planning time for teachers and a recent union letter urged educators to avoid doing tasks not stated in their contracts. But Epiphany in Baltimore doesn’t want school bells, academic calendars, and contract agreements to define his teaching responsibilities—not if he wants to be a successful teacher. He lists their demands:

No hall duty, no lunch duty, no staying past 3:25 and no arriving before 8:05. No advising any organizations. No writing any letters of recommendation. No grading or planning anything outside of the prescribed time. No buying any school supplies. No grading any work at home.
It's all pretty laughable.
...It's impossible to be an effective teacher working only 7.5 hours a day, and, thus, it's just impossible for me engage in something like this.
12 Comments

I agree with you in principle, but teacher's must also realize that administration will take full advantage of our giving nature as professionals. Be careful what you give because , in this profession, you can't always get it back.

I realize that unions exist for a reason, but anyone who goes into teaching believing that teachers can be effective under those constraints simply was not paying attention to the inspirational teachers they had along the way. They probably believe that they really ought to be working only 9 months a year, too. I went into teaching because I want to serve kids and I cannot do that within such tight parameters.

Teacher's unions exist, presumably, to protect teachers from the abuses perpetually imposed on them from the administration and the State requirements they operate under. By making demands that might actually allow a teacher to spend time teaching, the expectation, mine at least, would be that the system be mended, corrected, revised, transformed into a system that allows teachers to teach, administrators to supervise and guide and the State to support the education of our children and students.

Support your union. We have lost most of our planning time to meetings about small learning communities, common assesments, 9th grade teams and any other flavor of the month fix. As the saying goes 'Meetings are places where minutes are taken and hours are wasted'. Fight for your prep time.

Support your union. We have lost most of our planning time to meetings about small learning communities, common assesments, 9th grade teams and any other flavor of the month fix. As the saying goes 'Meetings are places where minutes are taken and hours are wasted'. Fight for your prep time.

Support your union. I'm a highly dedicated, veteran high school teacher of 17 years. I come from an economic and social background that is similar to the book, "A Boy Called It." I have an affinity for the most troubled, disruptive students, the ones others write off. I create most of my own materials because the commercial stuff available is of so low level, scholastically. I'm currently applying for a game patent after years of out of pocket expenses. I spend almost $1,600 of my own money a year on students and often stay after class until 7 or 8pm. Forget the propaganda you've heard about unions, lazy teachers, evil unions, blah. blah, blah. Having been in management, I know the thinking, divide and conquer. I'm a professional, so are you. As teachers we are not treated, viewed or paid like professionals by the public. My ex-wife, (also a public school teacher,) and I were involved with a non-union charter high school. It recently closed after ten years. It was only because of her tremendous gifts and talents that it stayed open so long. We could write a book about why unions improve education and cite our experience. If you love the way Walmart and McDonalds operate, you will love non-union schools. As healthy, confident, empowered individuals we must look out to protect professional standards, no one else will. Good doctors, lawyers, social workers, air line pilots etc... protect the integrity of their professions. These small acts of protest you are asked to take part in, while slightly disruptive, are signs that you speak as one voice. If you don't like the voice, speak up. I have often spoken out against some unwise decisions on the part of my union, within the union. However, being a democratic institution, I support what the majority has decided after due deliberation. People of wisdom throughout the ages have pointed this out: "Without struggle there is no progress," Frederic Douglass. Your idealism and passion will last longer when those who employ you stop game playing and recognize your professionalism, integrity and your united voice. Godspeed!

I read Epiphany's whole post--I think it's important to realize that it was talking about a "work to the contract" action. This can be an effective replacement for a strike, a good attention-getter. The first time I encountered it my son was in first grade. As parents, we were respectfully asked to leave Open House at the appointed time to honor the action. I did so gratefully.

However, by middle school, when the strategy was used again--and an administrator explained to me at 7:15 AM--when no teachers had yet arrived for our 7:15 AM IEP meeting, that the teachers were "working to the contract" and not working until 7:15 AM--I had to point out that we had been scheduling IEP meetings for years to fall within teacher's contracted working time (with NO consideration for my own working time).

Working to the contract as an attention-getter loses its power when teachers (I won't venture to suggest whether a few, some or all) spend their working lives in the same manner. Examples: cannot reach a teacher by telephone after school because both teacher and office are off the clock concurrent with the end of class; cannot reach a teacher with a first period conference time because they are not required to be in school before their first teaching period; school cannot respond to hallway chaos in any organized way because hallway duty is not in the contract; the safety of children boarding school buses is endangered by the chaos because teachers are not contracted to provide this service (although I am grateful to the mini-sized math teacher who voluntarily shared this duty with the asst principal). I have had teachers on conference night, with no other parents scheduled or in evidence tell me that I am only "entitled" to 15 minutes of their time. I have also had teachers tell me that as regular ed teachers they are not "required" to read my son's IEP. I did actually try to read through the contract (on the union's website) to see if this one was true--it is an enormous document, I cannot imagine that anyone is truly conversant with its contents.

In short--I have struggled with my knee-jerk support of unions in light of my experience with the teachers' union. I don't even hear overwhelming support of the union from teachers--as they realize that some pretty shoddy teachers/practices are given shelter there.

I do think that current teacher union practices are at odds with the desire of teachers to be viewed as professionals. While Epiphany suggests that it is almost impossible to oust a union president--I would suggest that perhaps this is what is required. Organizing is an important function--far to important to be left to those who show up or get involved. It might be time for Epiphany, or others, to put together a platform and support an alternate candidate. Some things that they might push for might be a shift away from the hourly details in favor of greater classroom support--textbooks, size, computers, whatever. It's pretty hard for the voting public (the ones who have to vote on school taxes) to get their heads around a 7.5 hour working day with summers off AND the notion that teachers are underpaid (personally, I would support year round employment for teachers with increased accountability for professional development that responds to student need, effective summer school programs, and the ability to meet with teachers before and after the school year--and adequate time for teacher planning efforts).

If the union wants community/parent support, perhaps they might consider meeting with and listening to parents occasionally. I get ruffled everytime that the union makes claims that they are asking for the things that parents want (ie--administrators who "deal with" discipline, which I hear as "putting kids out of school/classroom on requests"). Did you ask me? If the union is opposed to teachers being involved in hallway, cafeteria, bus duty, it is no wonder that teachers feel stressed and overwhelmed by discipline.

I am loath to give up my ingrained support of unions, but c'mon guys, learn (and teach) your history. Get responsibly involved. Make sure that the union fights are really aligned with the goals of the profession. Teachers are not fast-food workers, and their contract should not regard them in that way. Move away from the hourly issues (that responsible teachers ignore anyway) and focus on something with some meat to it. How about including union history in the curriculum?

If you have read him before, you'll know that Epiphany loves to martyr himself to education. I left the field because I wanted a personal life and a bank account in the black. Epiphany complains about both of those things, but still gives way more of himself than he should, contract-be-damned.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT minimize the impact of doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Teaching is NEVER done and neither is the work. We need to stay together and force the powers that be to limit the amount of time outside of teaching that can be required. This is still and job although a nobel profession. Your family and life needs to come first. We often forget to take care of ourself and our needs and no one will do it for us. Our schools are in dire need of major overhauls. Especially the inner city schools. That also means that it will take more manpower and hours to do it. It does not need to fall on the shoulders of teachers. Most I know will work extra, just don't EXPECT it of us. Those that don't leave the profession early anyway.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT minimize the impact of doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Teaching is NEVER done and neither is the work. We need to stay together and force the powers that be to limit the amount of time outside of teaching that can be required. This is still and job although a nobel profession. Your family and life needs to come first. We often forget to take care of ourself and our needs and no one will do it for us. Our schools are in dire need of major overhauls. Especially the inner city schools. That also means that it will take more manpower and hours to do it. It does not need to fall on the shoulders of teachers. Most I know will work extra, just don't EXPECT it of us. Those that don't leave the profession early anyway.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT minimize the impact of doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Teaching is NEVER done and neither is the work. We need to stay together and force the powers that be to limit the amount of time outside of teaching that can be required. This is still and job although a nobel profession. Your family and life needs to come first. We often forget to take care of ourself and our needs and no one will do it for us. Our schools are in dire need of major overhauls. Especially the inner city schools. That also means that it will take more manpower and hours to do it. It does not need to fall on the shoulders of teachers. Most I know will work extra, just don't EXPECT it of us. Those that don't leave the profession early anyway.

A few years ago, the teachers in my district used the "work to rule" action with some success. As an untenured, dedicated teacher who doesn't work very fast; I found a solution that allowed me to get work done AND support the union. 1. The classrooms at my school have no windows. 2. My parents live half a mile from the school. Solution: Park at my parents’ house and hide in the classroom after duty hours ended. Later, I would sneak out the back and walk to my car. In addition to getting some exercise, my principal could report that there were no cars in the parking lot. (His office has one of the three windows on campus!) The administrators in the district office could see that the teachers supported their union. Eventually, administration returned to the negotiation table!

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